Have you ever thought to yourself, why is it that most of us love the end of the year? The most obvious answer being that it is because most of our western holidays are stacked back-to-back: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. But what is it about the holidays that we truly, madly, and deeply enjoy?
The social awakening surrounding the roles of the 3 C’s (capitalism, colonialism, and christianity) in the development of Thanksgiving and Christmas as consumerist spectacles has done little to diminish their popularity and the perpetual excitement surrounding them. We know their true origins are not what we were told growing up, yet we still celebrate them jubilantly.
The reason for this lies within (paradoxically) their anti-capitalist, and therefore degrowth nature. We close businesses (most of them anyway), and gather in small or large groups to enjoy food, drinks, music, games, and community. Many donate their time and money to charity. All of that is degrowth.
The centerpiece of the major winter holidays is the feast. In Degrowth literature, this is known as a dépense. Dépense is collective social waste, meant to take capital out of the sphere of endless circulation. The point is to spend the surplus and not save it. Ebenezer Scrooge, after having the night of his life (metaphysically), decides to forgive debts and give away a chunk of his own money to throw a huge feast for Tiny Tim and the Cratchit family. Upon reflection, Scrooge realizes that there is more to life than the relentless accumulation of capital. Charity is degrowth.
Even some of the most recent holiday tales are degrowth in nature; Elf pours the anti-capitalist gravy on thick. Buddy heartily lives out the #1 elven rule to treat every day like Christmas. As cheerful Buddy meets his capitalist father for the first time, poor Walter Hobbs hardly has any time to spend with his family during the last weeks of the year. Walter sees himself as having no choice but to constantly please his capitalist bosses at the children’s book publishing company situated inside the capitalist mecca, the Empire State Building. Walter, at first, seems like a true capitalist, revoking a deal to provide books at an orphanage due to lack of…you guessed it, money!
As the movie progresses, we begin to see that there is always another capitalist up above the rung on the ladder where Walter finds himself. His boss forces him to develop a new book (due on Christmas Eve) because of lackluster sales on a previous book. Then he is forced to hire the biggest (not in stature) capitalist in the movie, famed children’s author Miles Finch (Peter Dinklage) who offers up five hours of his time “and not a minute more”, pending on being picked up in a black s500 set to “71 degrees exactly”. By the climax of the film, Walter has been so overcome (thanks to Buddy’s militant optimism towards Christmas cheer) with the essence of the holidays, time spent with loved ones, that he quits his job cold-turkey to help Buddy get Santa and his sleigh back in the air.
The reason we enjoy the holiday season is because of their anti-capitalistic nature. While some would argue that holidays are actually monuments to rampant consumerism, they would be mistaking the peripheral veil capitalism has opaquely wrapped-around the spirit of these annual gatherings for its core essence. Things slow down, people gather and celebrate convivially the fruits of our labor. We give instead of take. We share instead of steal. We forgive and forget. We need not lose sight of the true meaning of a holiday, where we socially waste our time together to eat, drink, and be merry. So, I ask you, as this year comes to a close, to not forget to come in and know me better, man!